Johnston cracks down on 9 ‘illegal businesses’ operating at 27 Mill St.

MAYOR: ‘This isn’t ... the Wild West’

Posted 12/2/22

Future Case Corp. has been there long enough for rust to form and leak from the bracket and onto the business’s white sign hanging in front.

The mill building’s been there for about …

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Johnston cracks down on 9 ‘illegal businesses’ operating at 27 Mill St.

MAYOR: ‘This isn’t ... the Wild West’


Future Case Corp. has been there long enough for rust to form and leak from the bracket and onto the business’s white sign hanging in front.

The mill building’s been there for about a century. At least one of the businesses inside has been open 20 years or more — eight more occupy various corners of the factory building at 27 Mill St.

Until last month, none of them were licensed by the town of Johnston.

The town may now seek back license fees from the businesses, and each operation will now be subject to Johnston’s rules of business operation.

The business owners say they didn’t know they needed a license. Town officials claim they didn’t know the businesses were there, operating without licenses.

According to Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena, the businesses at 27 Mill St. have been “operating illegally.”

“They all got caught operating illegally,” Polisena said during public session of the November Town Council meeting, where Future Case’s owner Alan Jaswell and five other business owners pleaded their case for tardy business licenses.

“We didn’t know we needed one,” Jaswell said last week, referring to a town-issued business license, as he stood inside the offices linked to his operation. Jaswell went to the windowsill and picked up a sample of his work from a large pile of small cases — the sort that typically contain commemorative coins or souvenir knives.

“We’ve been here at least 20 years,” Jaswell said. “We didn’t know we needed to get a license from the town. I don’t want any more trouble. We pay all of our taxes. We had all our inspections. We’ll be making some changes.”

The town has allowed for temporary provisional licenses, pending a 90-day review, for each of the six businesses that appeared before them on Nov. 15. Three more are expected to request licenses at December’s Town Council meeting.

Jaswell confirmed there are nine businesses operating inside the building at 27 Mill St. A “For Rent” sign on the front door advertises more available space.

Town Council Vice President and Mayor-elect Joe Polisena Jr. said the town plans to pursue fees that the businesses neglected top pay.

“DBR (Department of Business Regulation) has (a) three-year look-back precedent, so any business caught operating without a license, the town will seek a full, three-year maximum, reimbursement,” Polisena said following the November meeting. “Additionally, as a council member, when a business operating long-term without a license subsequently applies for one, as a deterrent, I would be more inclined to grant a temporary provisional license rather than a full one due to the illegal operation.”

District 1 Town Council member Linda L. Folcarelli said she received complaints from constituents regarding loud noises emanating from the building  during the night at 27 Mill St. She asked Jaswell about the noise during the November meeting. He said it was caused by exhaust fans.

“The exhaust?” Folcarelli asked. “Then why are they using it at night? I’ve been there at night, and I’ve heard it.”

Folcarelli said she witnessed the noise at 12 and 1 a.m.

“I’ve had some complaints also; that the fans run in the middle of the night,” Mayor Polisena added. “So they forgot to turn the switch off or they’re operating the business after hours …  This is a residential area. People are calling and complaining … You’re here tonight because you didn’t have a license. Well that’s why. We didn’t know you were even there … now you’re going to be legal, which is good.”

Jaswell asked Carlos Miranda, owner of Modern Jewelry, LLC, in Unit 8 of the Mill Street building, to join him before Town Council. Miranda profusely apologized to the town and said his business has been operating for “almost two years.”

“I’m so sorry,” he repeated. Jaswell and Miranda told the council the exhaust fans are used to clear the air at Modern Jewelry when the business is operating.

“What time do you want them off and we’ll make sure that they’re off?” Jaswell asked Town Council.

“Well, they’re not supposed to be working those hours,” Folcarelli replied.

Johnston Building Official for Special Projects Ben Nascenzi informed the business owners: “Town ordinance is 6 o’clock (p.m.).”

The other four businesses appearing before Town Council on Nov. 15 included B & B Jewelry Company, Luna Polishing Inc., Tiki Epoxy and Maryann Jewelry.

Folcarelli played video demonstrating the level of noise leaking from the building. A grating sound filled the courtroom.

“I can recommend to the council, when he comes up for his license, that it be contingent with the issue with the fan, with the noise,” Mayor Polisena said. “It’s not fair to the residents.”

Johnston’s Assistant Town Solicitor Dylan Conley explained the provisional license Town Council could grant the nine businesses. He said the town could revoke the license or refuse to grant a full license without holding a show-cause hearing.

“So everybody gets penalized because he’s got (inaudible)?” Jaswell asked.

“Well, excuse me if I may,” Mayor Polisena interrupted. “Keep in mind, there’s one, two, three, four, five — there’s six businesses (here) that are operating without a license. Which is unfair to the taxpayer … There’s people in here that are waiting to get a license. That’s not fair. Now, because of the noise that he was making, and the complaints you got, this all came to light. Quite frankly, I’m concerned. There’s three more of your tenants coming in December. None of them have licenses. This isn’t like the Wild West.”

The mayor paused for a second. He leaned on the lectern.

“I should have prefaced my remarks by saying, this is one of the most business friendly towns in New England,” Polisena said. “Take it to the bank. We’ve got $2 billion in new business in the past 16 years. This isn’t right. There’s six businesses out of this building that are here tonight because they got caught — all of them — without a license.”

Folcarelli said she gave herself a tour of the building.

“I walked in,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was walking into. God what is this? It’s dark. I walked into this big room with all machines, and there was just one lady sitting there working. I ran out of there so fast. I have no idea what I’m walking into. So I just skedaddled out … I said I don’t know if I want to go anymore in this building.”

Nascenzi asked a question.

“You have two businesses here that are epoxying and gluing,” said the building official. “What happens to the noxious fumes?”

Both sides agreed more inspections will be likely at the site.

“No one knew that the businesses were running,” Polisena said. “That’s why you’re here tonight. Because they all got caught operating illegally.”

Jaswell said the Fire Marshall and a town building official have inspected safety precautions at the building and gave the businesses a clean bill-of-health.

One-by-one, Town Council voted unanimously to give all six businesses 90-day provisional licenses, subject to passing all inspections. The businesses will be asked to reappear before council in three months.

“I’ll keep checking,” Folcarelli warned. “I don’t live far from there.”


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